And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh returned…
The feeling excited in the people of Israel by the news that the Reubenites and Gadites had set up an altar beyond Jordan is a proof that the religious condition of the nation after the great benefits received by it was very healthy, while the act of the Reubenites and Gadites is no less an evidence of their gratitude to God. The indignation of the ten tribes is aroused by their impression that the Reubenites and Gadites have committed an act of rebellion against the holy law of God, in seeking to offer sacrifices on any other than the national altar. They are filled with holy zeal for the name of God and jealousy for His glory. "Ye have turned away this day from following the Lord," say their messengers to the two tribes supposed to be thus rebellious. If we inquire into the causes of so keen a spiritual life in this people usually so stiffnecked and prone to estrangement from God, we find that it can be accounted for in two ways.
I. ISRAEL HAS VIVIDLY IN REMEMBRANCE THE CONSEQUENCES OF ANY VIOLATION OF THE LAW OF GOD. Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and was not the anger of the Lord kindled against all Israel? It was not Achan alone who perished because of his sin; the whole congregation suffered on his account (ver. 20). In this holy fear we see the vindication of the stern judgment of God. "Whom he loveth he chasteneth, that they may be made partakers of his holiness."
II. THE SECOND EXPLANATION OF THIS HEALTHY MORAL CONDITION IS GRATITUDE FOR BLESSINGS RECEIVED in the signal victory over the Canaanites, which the people felt they could never have achieved in their own unaided strength. Thus we need the discipline both of adversity and of prosperity in our spiritual education. Prosperity alone does but harden; adversity unrelieved would sink the soul in despair. God knows our proneness to wander, hence He chastises us to put us in mind of our sins and of His holiness. But He remembers that we are but dust. Hence He blends joy with sorrow in our changeful lives, and the two together work out in us the gracious purposes of eternal love. - E. DE P.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel out of Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go unto the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession, whereof they were possessed, according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.
WEB: The children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel out of Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the land of Gilead, to the land of their possession, which they owned, according to the commandment of Yahweh by Moses.